The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics

Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky. Basic, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-465-02811-5
Readers ready to embrace their inner applied mathematician will enjoy this brisk, bare-bones introduction to classical mechanics drawn from Stanford University’s “Continuing Studies” program. Although physicist Susskind (The Black Hole War) and science advocate Hrabovsky touch briefly on electricity and magnetism, the book is primarily about mechanics and the motion of particles. The authors open with a look at closed and open systems and the reversibility of physical laws, a concept central to the field. Next are rigorous chapters on trigonometry and vectors, and a no-nonsense intro to differential and integral calculus, and how these tools are used to calculate the motion of objects through space. Not for the faint of heart, successive chapters introduce Newton’s law of motion, the complex mathematics of “systems” of particles, phase space, conservation of momentum, and the Principle of Least Action, which allows scientists to “package” a system’s velocity, mass, direction, and forces into a single function. The authors intend this book as a toolkit for determined readers who want to teach themselves basic mechanics. Although their discussions are clear enough, even the hardiest reader will want to bring a basic calculus text along for the journey. 62 line drawings. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman, Inc. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
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